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Debbie Allen Becomes the First Black Woman to Receive the Governors Award at the Emmys

Debbie Allen smiles at a red carpet event. She is a beautiful Black woman with curly brown hair that sits on her shoulders.

Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock.com

Debbie Allen has made history after becoming the first Black woman to receive the prestigious Governors Award at the 2021 Emmys  – and she’s using the moment to highlight how important it is for women to keep going, no matter the challenges we face.

The entertainment icon was chosen to receive the honour by the Television Academy’s Board of Governors for her stellar, decades-long career in entertainment but also for her relentless commitment to inspire marginalised youth through dance and theatre.

“I am trembling with gratitude and grace. I’m trying not to cry and be equal to the situation because it’s been many years in the making,” she says during her acceptance speech before explaining how she’s often the “only woman in the room.”


“It’s taken a lot of courage and creativity and fight and faith to believe that I could keep going, and I have,” Debbie passionately continues.

“Let this moment resonate with women…across this country and across the world. From Texas to Afghanistan, let them know – and also with young people, who have no vote, who can’t even get a vaccine, who are inheriting the world that we leave them – it is time for you to claim your power, claim your voice, sing your song, tell your stories. It will make us a better place. Your turn!” she ends, staring and pointing straight into the camera.

Sure, many of us know Debbie as Dr Catherine Fox on Grey’s Anatomy but she was a trailblazer and a legend long before landing that role…

She’s an internationally recognised dancer and choreographer who was once rejected from joining the Houston Ballet School because of the colour of her skin. But that didn’t stop her from flourishing.

Nope. In fact, she’s choreographed for some of the biggest names in the world including Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston as well as the Academy Awards, ten times! Plus, she’s a writer, producer and director. Oh and she holds four honorary doctorate degrees.


In the year 2000, she opened the Debbie Allen Dance Academy so that youth in underserved communities could have access to the arts too. Today, the non-profit school has expanded and not only  provides classes for 3,000 kids each year, but also holds programs for cancer patients, seniors and women and children escaping violence.

Check out Debbie’s full speech below:

Last year’s recipient of the Award was producer, actor and director Tyler Perry and his Tyler Perry Foundation.

(Feature Image Credit: still via @Television Academy/YouTube)

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